Senate Probing Top Televangelists for Tax Violations

The United States Senate has launched an investigation into six major televangelists for misusing their tax-exempt status.

CBS News has learned Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating six prominent televangelist ministries for possible financial misconduct.

Letters were sent Monday to the ministries demanding that financial statements and records be turned over to the committee by December 6th.

According to Grassley’s office, the Iowa Republican is trying to determine whether or not these ministries are improperly using their tax-exempt status as churches to shield lavish lifestyles.

The six ministries identified as being under investigation by the committee are led by: Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Three of the six – Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar – also sit on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University.

Very interesting, especially coming from Grassley. A lot of tax-exempt groups, religious and otherwise, have long been on the edge in terms of political activism and there have been several investigations, seemingly leading nowhere, into that. This seems to be something more mundane, though: a charge that these folks are lining their pockets.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Religion
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. vnjagvet says:

    I guess the Senators will be “shocked, shocked” if they find there is pocket lining going on.

    As if most Senate political careers are free of pocket lining. Lyndon Johnson would turn over in his grave. If the radio station antennae didn’t get in his way.

  2. jpe says:

    Grassley is the bomb. FWIW, this is part of a trend by him: for the past several years, he’s been interrogating charities and the “public benefit.” Public benefit is a primary justification for the tax exemption, and Grassley has made no bones about figuring out whether charities are adequately discharging that duty. Previous targets of the Grassley bomb: hospitals, and charities generally.

  3. David says:

    While Grassley has been focused on charities, particularly hospitals, it’s being driven by Dean Zerbe, one of the GOP tax counsels, and also a senior counsel to the ranking member, now…

  4. AllenS says:

    There is no religion more in need of scrutiny than Scientology.

  5. Bob says:

    I’d suggest he take a look at all these Carbon loading / Carbon offset schemes to see how much “public benefit” is actually netted.

  6. jpe says:

    I'd suggest he take a look at all these Carbon loading / Carbon offset schemes to see how much "public benefit" is actually netted.

    I don't think the orgs that buy & sell those are non-profits, Bob.

    David: thanks for the info. I've found some interviews with Zerbe, and it's pretty fascinating stuff.